The reason I didn't play football in high school is because I ran cross country. Entering high school as a freshman it is what I was expected to do. My eighth grade year I had won all but one of the mile races that I ran, and so when our school decided to add cross country there was an expectation that is what I would do.
I didn't mind cross country my freshman year, mainly because my coach that year was very good and he expected a lot out of me. My fastest times in cross country came my freshman year. The following years I had a couple of different coaches who didn't push me as hard as Coach Clayberg had done my freshman year. I began to hate cross country. During the meets my goal was to finish, I wasn't out to win. As a result my cross country career is not very distinguished.
My track career in high school is a different story. I loved track, and even though my coaches didn't always push us, I would do extra running after practice. As a result I was able to run at the Iowa State Track meet. The difference was in my attitude. While during cross country I was just putting in my time, during track I was seeking to be successful, I was running to win.
I believe we have the same problem in our lives that I had with cross country. We have become satisfied with just getting by, looking to finish, rather than living to win. We try to let our Christianity show as little as possible rather than living sold out lives to Jesus.
Jesus does not want us to live lives that are just enough to get by. He is not interested in us living like the world as much as we can and blending in with the people around us. It is Jesus' desire that we stand out, living lives that are radically different than the people that we know. He wants us to be winners, rather than to be satisfied with finishing.
When I talk about living our lives to win I don't mean that we have to be perfect or even the best. If that was the case than we all would be in trouble. None of us can be the best at everything, and none of us will be perfect at everything we do.
To live to win simply means to give our best. This is what God wants from us. If all we ever do is just enough to get by then we will miss out on all that God has for us. If all we ever do is just what we are comfortable with, then we will not know what it is like to live out our potential.
The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians to remind them to give their best. This is found in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27;
Remember that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize. You also must run in such a way that you will win. All athletes practice strict self-control. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run straight to the goal with purpose in every step. I am not like a boxer who misses his punches. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified. (NLT)
We are to run to win. We are to give our best effort. Paul gives us two disciplines we need in order to give our best effort. First we need to have purpose. Paul says that he runs to the goal with purpose. We need a direction to go in and reason for going there. God gives us this purpose, to have a relationship with Him. When we give our best, we experience God like we have never experienced Him before.
The second discipline is that we need to train. An athlete trains to prepare his/her body for the challenge of competition. In the same way we need to train our bodies to prepare them for the struggles and trials we will face. To live as a Christian is not easy, so we need to be prepared to defend our beliefs, to say no to temptation, and to stand tall when bad times come.
Run to win is what God wants us to do. An athlete seeking victory will give his/her best effort. They will have purpose in the playing and training to prepare them. If we are going to live according to God's standard we need to give our best effort, having a purpose in our lives and training to prepares us for what lies ahead. Let's quit being satisfied with just finishing, let us live to win. Let us run for Jesus.